A short newsletter where strangers ask each other questions. Plus other updates from Jody Avirgan (30for30, FiveThirtyEight) | Every week or so you’ll get a provocative question, one stranger’s answer, and a chance to participate.

What is one trait that you've inherited from your parents, and when did it you first notice it?

How does this work? Each week you’ll see one reader’s answer to the previous week’s question. Then you’ll see the question they have for the list, which you can respond to if you’d like. Or you can just read and enjoy.

Previous Question:

What is one trait that you've inherited from your parents, and when did it you first notice it?

Trent answers: Inefficient grocery shopping. I haven't owned a car for much of my life. So when I go to the supermarket, I'm frequently piggybacking on someone else's trip (a friend, roommate, significant other, etc.) Throughout the years, my shopping buddies have commented on my in-store procedures and habits. Apparently I have a tendency to serpentine through each aisle religiously—carefully surveying each shelf until I find something that I need (semi-regardless of how long my grocery list actually is).

I also default to a patient stroll and apparently end up focusing less on groceries than most other grocery shoppers do. All of this amounts to me taking much longer to shop than whoever actually drove me to the store, which I feel bad about. With extreme focus, I can break these habits. However, I inevitably revert my old ways over time.

I didn't realize that all of this was hereditary until the age of 23, when my mother and I went to the supermarket to pick up a few extra ingredients for dinner and ended up leaving the store nearly two hours later.


Ed note: This version of this newsletter will always be free. If you subscribe, you’ll be supporting my work and efforts to expand the project. You’ll also get bonus newsletters with other great answers, one of which will go our later this week. Think about it!

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Trent’s Ask:

What is something that you really enjoy doing, despite being objectively poor at doing it?

If you’d like to answer this question, you can simply hit reply to this email and write it in. Be sure to also include a question that you’d like to submit next. You can also submit your answer anonymously here. And tell us a story — your answer will be the bulk of the next newsletter.


Bits and Pieces

From time to time, I’ll throw some updates, links, and other notes at the bottom of the newsletter.

  • I announced this week that I’m leaving the FiveThirtyEight podcast. Just seeing the news path ahead (eg the Mueller investigation and the 2020 election) it was clear that trying to balance 538 and my other work wasn’t going to be fair to either side. I’m very bummed to be leaving, but I’m already really excited to throw myself into 30 for 30, some other new efforts at ESPN, and a few new side projects (this newsletter has a bit to do with one of them). I’ve gotten a ton of really lovely notes over the last week; makes me think I should leave a job every six months, if only for the ego boost! But seriously, thanks for all your support, and shoutout to the team at 538, who are the best and funnest in the news business.

  • Hey, it’s the end of the year and, unlike anyone else, I’ve decided to catalog some of my favorite things. I’ll be tweeting about them over the next week, but for now here’s a playlist of Songs From 2018 I Loved. And I wrote about my three favorite podcasts for the Sunday Long Read.

  • One other thing that I truly loved from 2018: seeing David Byrne live. His “American Utopia” tour is over, but turns out there are a ton of videos on youtube of it. Put it on sometime.

  • Here’s a very good farro recipe to have in your pocket this holiday season.

  • The Moonlight Sonata but the bass is a bar late and the melody is a bar early.

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What is one thing your best friend does that annoys you?

Next: What is one trait that you've inherited from your parents, and when did it you first notice it?

Previous Question:

What is one thing your best friend does that annoys you?

Michael answers: My friend is very passionate about his rights as a pedestrian. He'll often cross the street the minute he sees a break in traffic,  even if a car seems very likely to drive across the crosswalk as he's crossing it. He loves to reiterate that, legally, drivers "have to stop for you." He's technically right, but I joke that that phrase will be printed on his tombstone. As someone raised by a New Yorker, the aggressive jaywalking doesn't bother me. Rather, it's my friend's reaction to being cut off or almost hit that I find irksome. Whenever there's a close call with a car that stops short, he slaps or kicks either the hood or the trunk, whichever is closest. I keep warning him that one day he's going to do it to the wrong car. That day came this weekend, when the driver and passenger of a car he slapped got out of their vehicle to confront him (his girlfriend defused the situation before it became physical). I'm sympathetic to my friend's hatred of almost getting hit, but the notion that you could strike someone's car without there being consequences reeks of privilege, arrogance, and recklessness. I've read too many stories about road rage incidents that turned deadly to ever feel comfortable doing something like that.

Next ask:

What is one trait that you've inherited from your parents, and when did it you first notice it?

If you’d like to answer this question, you can simply hit reply to this email and write it in. Be sure to also include a question that you’d like to submit next. You can also submit your answer anonymously here. And tell us a story — your answer will be the bulk of the next newsletter.

Find Me: Twitter | Website | Instagram | Spotify

Where in the world is your favorite landscape?

Next: What is one thing your best friend does that annoys you?

Previous Question:

Where in the world is your favorite landscape?

Emily answers: When I was a kid, we spent a couple of family summer holidays in Durness, a tiny village on the northwest coast of Scotland. The landscapes there really stayed with me: the perfect rolling sand dunes and beautiful white beaches seemed almost completely out of place juxtaposed with the slightly wild Scottish summer sky and weatherbeaten rural outbuildings. It felt like everything had been left untouched and the daylight switched permanently to ON, all for the benefit of ten-year-old me. We were only there for a week or so on a couple of different occasions, but I came away with a strong sense of connection to the landscape. I've never been back - I suspect it would ruin the magic of the memories a little.

[[Ed note: We got a number of Scotland responses to this question. And, that’s my answer too. I took a trip there a few years ago that was one of the most magical weeks of my life. Here are some of my photos from being On Skye.]]

Next Ask:

What is one thing your best friend does that annoys you?

If you’d like to answer this question, you can simply hit reply to this email and write it in. Be sure to also include a question that you’d like to submit next. You can also submit your answer anonymously here. And tell us a story — your answer will be the bulk of the next newsletter.

Find Me: Twitter | Website | Instagram | Spotify

What era do you think you would have been best suited to live in and why? 

Previous Question:

What era do you think you would have been best suited to live in and why? 

[[Ed note: A lot of people, the majority in fact, said “now.” For good and interesting reasons, such as Nick’s below. For women, or people of color, this is the best era to live in — which says much more about how bad it’s been rather than how good it is. The real answer to this question, though, is “any era that would have let me see Brahms or Nina Simone perform in their prime. Anyway…]]

Nick answers: If I could pick an era in which to live, it would definitely have to be the era in which I am currently living. I might romanticize the past as much as anybody does, but as a Type 1 Diabetic, I know that medically, my body is really grateful for the medical advancements of recent decades. Additionally, as an openly gay man, I am grateful that I can share my home and my apartment with my boyfriend and not be ostracized by my community. I'd certainly love to see the 1920s, or the 1840s, or even the 1960s, but I know that the early 21st century is the era for me. 

Nick’s Ask:

Where in the world is your favorite landscape?

If you’d like to answer this question, you can simply hit reply to this email and write it in. Be sure to also include a question that you’d like to submit next. You can also submit your answer anonymously here. And tell us a story — your answer will be the bulk of the next newsletter.


Bits and Pieces

From time to time, I’ll throw some updates, links, and other notes at the bottom of the newsletter.

  • Hey, there’s an election coming up here in the United States! I’ll be doing a bunch of podcasting and hosting video at FiveThirtyEight all that day and night and into the wee hours. So, your priorities: 1) Vote! 2) Come join us online.

  • Recent additions to the Perfect Songs Playlist:

    • “The Lengths” by Black Keys

    • “Sweet Wanomi” by Bill Withers

    • “Discotheque” by Sun June

  • As you may know, I’m one of those types who take Ultimate Frisbee way too seriously. For many years, I played and captained NYC’s top men’s team. I’m still very connected with the program, and just this year they won the freakin’ national championship. Here is a really lovely article about the culture of NYC frisbee and what makes it so special. I got a nice quote in there talking shit about Boston, too.

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